The latest postal banking plan gets it wrong again
It was certainly a headline week for the United States Postal Service last week.
While so much of the coverage has understandably been focused on whether USPS will ensure that our votes will be properly counted, one under-the-radar headline has caused heartburn for our movement — the postal service has been in talks with Chase Bank to put an ATM in our federally funded post offices across the country.
Earlier this year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders suggested using the nation’s post offices as a means of creating greater access to financial services. Credit unions have long supported reducing and preventing banking deserts, but Chase ATMs are hardly a solution to such a problem.
Now, I’ll be the first to recognize that an ATM is better than nothing, but if the goal is to create meaningful solutions for the folks without adequate banking access, this is certainly a “let them eat cake” solution, especially when these ATMs will presumably come with fees for those who don’t have a Chase account. That means that the same megabank that continues to post record profits for investors will be able to siphon even more hard-earned money from rural and low-income consumers to further line the pockets of those same investors.
To be fair, the negotiations underway do not represent the solution that congressional Democrats proposed earlier this year. But their proposal, for a publicly run national postal bank, still wouldn’t solve the problem. As the recent debates underscore, our postal system is already in dire straits.
To ask the USPS to shift focus — not to mention funds — at this critical moment to spin up a whole new service is ill-advised. And, the products that the postal service would provide — check cashing and payday loans — wouldn’t help improve the financial well-being of consumers desperate for mainstream banking services.
If the goal is to promote thrift and provide access to credit for provident purposes, especially for low-income and rural folks, then the ideal financial service partner should operate under an equitable, not-for-profit model.
For over a century, credit unions have been putting the consumer ahead of profit, providing safe, affordable, quality services that are responsive to the specific needs of the communities they serve. Credit unions always have members’ financial well-being at heart, and will actually work with folks to find the solutions that meet their needs and to help consumers make their money work for them, not Wall Street.
Chase’s for-profit solution is cold-hearted. Congressional progressives want something too hot for the USPS to handle.
Credit unions? We’re just right.